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Reserve tanker crew first operational crew to refuel F-35

By Maj. Shannon Mann
916th Air Refueling Wing

5/5/2011 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- What started out as a routine mission for Airmen from the Air Force Reserve Command's 916th Air Refueling Wing turned into an historic 'first in flight' moment recently.

Flying a KC-135R Stratotanker, a flight crew and a maintenance crew from the wing's 911th Air Refueling Squadron thought they were headed to California to support training and airlift for other wings. But what surprised these five Airmen when they arrived at Edwards Air Force Base was the mission they were actually given, to be the first operational tanker crew to refuel the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

"We were the very first aircrew allowed to refuel the F-35, since the guidance allowing AMC crews to do so had just come out the night before," said Capt. Robert Draper, a 911th ARS pilot.

The crew was in California to support both F-35 and F-22 Raptor flight testing.

Coincidentally, members of the 916th ARW also were the first to refuel the F-22 a few years ago off the coast of Florida.

Along with Captain Draper, Lt. Fred Burnette, Staff Sgts. Travis Swinson and Jonathan Wygal and Airman First Class Timothy Carter were part of this historic mission.

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